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The Cause of Japan

Discussion in 'The Pacific and CBI' started by LRusso216, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I just finished reading this book on the recommendation of Larry (Opana Pointer). It was written by Togo Shigenori, who was Japan's Foreign Minister at the beginning of the war and again at wars end. It was written while he was in prison and translated. The copyright was 1956.

    A few things strike me.

    He never refers to Japan's war with China as a war. He consistently refers to it as the "China Affair". I find this disingenuous at best. Togo seems to regard Japan's incursion as a natural extension of Japanese power. Likewise, there is no mention of the Rape of Nanking. Nowhere is this atrocity mentioned.

    Much of the blame for the outbreak of the war is placed on the US. He goes into great detail about the negotiations with the US, always highlighting the concessions made by Japan. Of course, the starting point of negotiation was recognition of Japan's conquests in Indochina and the southwest to provide necessary raw materials to Japan. Because this was not acceptable to the US, it was a "failure" of diplomacy.

    I did find the complex relations among the military, the cabinet and the Emperor enlightening. Much of the discord, especially at the end of the war he lays at the feet of the military. They insisted that any peace settlement be with conditions, even if the Home Islands faced imminent invasion. Both the Emperor and the Cabinet vacillated and often changed their ideas, depending upon whom they were talking to. This vacillation might even occur in the space of time it took between conversations.

    While this book was difficult to read, not in the least because of the flowery language, it was interesting in exposing the thinking of the leadership of Japan in the run-up to WW2. Obviously, it was somewhat self-serving and showed Togo as an insistent voice for diplomatic solutions. However, much of what he wrote about the 30s squares with what Hotta's research led her to conclude. A hard read, but a good look at Japan's inner workings.
     
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  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    "The China Affair" is a house euphemism that dates from when the US neutrality laws required that we stop trading with any country engaged in a war, both attacker and attacked. It became a habit, especially for the Gaimudaijin, the diplomats that had to talk in code. China avoided calling it a war until Dec. 8th, 1941 (China local time) when they became the first country to declare war on Japan. Togo was expecting us to 'read the code' to understand his meaning.

    I agree with you on the insights into the government's inner workings. It's rather like trying to explain the US's tricameral system to an alien at times, isn't it?
     
  3. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I do think that Japan's incursion into China is not so different from US intervention in central and south America in the 1930's. Japan did have legitimate concerns with the spread of communism into China and with a lack of a stable central government.
    I recently was reading a bunch of 1930's US Congressional hearings into strategic raw materials and the US's increasing need for non-domestic sources of quite a few. I think it not coincidental the the Pacific rim was the predominant source for most of them. I was also struck by how much pull Standard Oil and US Steel wielded. US Steel pretty much prevented the US manganese market from getting similar governmental protections and economic incentives. This was in order to maximize their profits by exploiting cheaper Asian labor for lower manganese prices when if the same tariffs and policies the steel industry enjoyed were extended to domestic manganese production, we could have developed that industry to the point of self-sufficiency and have it competitive price wise even with higher US labor costs.
    Standard Oil employed many unethical tactics, throwing their weight around and virtually doing what they wanted, ignoring the governments, laws and regulations in other nations they operated in and any that stood up to them were vilified in the American Press.
    The Japanese did have elements within their Army that were pushing for expansion and war, but the US also had influential political, industrial and military segments pushing for the same. I really do think the majority of the civilian Japanese government and the majority of military leaders were looking to avoid a wider conflict and many actually wanted to extricate themselves from China. Look at the central governments decision to refuse to reinforce Japanese forces at Khalkhin Gol to avoid an open war with the Soviets even though many in the IJN were pushing for military expansion into and seizure of Soviet territory in the far East and Siberia.
     
  4. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    The incursions into China were not directed by the government of Japan, they were done by militarists (gumbatsu) who wanted to have some fun killing people for the glory of the Empire. Not at all similar to the US system.
     
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  5. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Bob, from what I read and what Togo had to say, Japan was willing to extricate itself from China provided that the US no longer support Chiang and Japan would keep conquered areas like Manchuria (Manchukuo). It also was not willing to give up the resource rich areas of what was then Indochina.
    It seems to me that it was the policy of the Japanese leadership to hold these areas despite the desire of some both inside and outside of Japan to extricate themselves. What Standard Oil and others did was extra-legal, although they did control some powerful members of the US government. As far as I can tell, the takeover of other areas was never the policy of the US government.
     
  6. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I must respectfully disagree. Much of the impetus for the expansion into China had to do with the influence of the Zaibatsu, Japanese industrial/financial groups. The Mitsui Zaibatsu had particularly strong influence within the IJA and within the Rikken Seiyūkai, a major political party in the 20's and early '30's. The Zaibatsu's were very influential in the formation of the governments foreign and domestic policies and in shaping public opinion. They held a similar but not as strong a position as the Council on Foreign Relations enjoyed with the US Government and the shaping of our governmental foreign and trade policies. They also engaged in efforts to shape US public opinion to support their positions.
    Most of the variation in how the foreign policies of the governments were influenced by commercial interests goes back to the unique circumstances surrounding the formation each nations government. These unique characteristics became culturally ingrained and I do not think either side fully comprehended the internal workings of the other. In the US, a nation that fought for independence from a nation that enforced its rule through a strong standing military, there was seen the need to prevent any future government from using the military as a means of enforcing its will upon the citizenry. Power was solely vested in an elected government and the military was a separate entity controlled by elected officials. When modern Japan was formed the greatest threat was not an oppressive indigenous government, but from expanding western imperialism. In order to protect their civilian government from control by outside influence the Constitution provided that the military enjoy independent and equal status with the civilian government. So while we have the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches that serve as checks against one another, but only limited authority over one another. What happened with Japan is that one branch of government, the IJA (think of it in this case as the US President) decides upon an action and sends troops in, the civilian government (think of it as Congress in this case) does not authorize or approve of the action but has little power to halt the action except to protest, deny resources for its continuation or rally public support against the action.
    This is not intended to be an accurate description of the intricacies of the Japanese form of government, many aspects of which are also similar to the British form. It is only intended to illustrate to those that view events through the lens of how our government works, that there are a whole different set of mechanics when viewing the Japanese up through WWII.
    Where Standard Oil (and other business interests) lobbied the President, Congressional and State Department Officials to protect their interests in Mexico at the turn of the century, the Zaibatsu's could lobby the IJA directly. Where US governmental actions taken with regards to unrest in Mexico led to greater and greater involvement in Mexican affairs that culminated with the Tampico Incident, Veracruz Expedition (1914) and The Punitive Expedition (1916-17), the same thing happened in Manchuria when political instability and warring between factions threatened Japanese business interests. In both cases internal meddling led to increased involvement by the respective governments to protect private business interests.
     
  7. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    You can disagree, I don't mind people being wrong.
     
  8. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    It doesn't bother me either.
     
  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Actually, nobody thought they could get out of China unless the Army agreed to do allow it, and the Army thought that leaving China would cause loss of face and "dishonor the valiant dead" who had fought to make China Japan's private breadbasket.
     
  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Larry, you're right. The Army had outsize influence up until the end of WW2. Even with the surrender, there were elements of the Army who refused to follow the wishes of the Emperor. Many of them committed ritual suicide as their way of registering their disapproval.
     
  11. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    That's my understanding as well. In fact right before the US cut off the oil, many within the Army were hoping that during Gozen-kaigi that the Navy would say they couldn't defeat the US if the situation resulted in war. That would allow the IJ Army to agree to withdraw from China as demanded by the US. If this failed then they hoped the Emperor would step in and perceive their "honne".
    I recently read a scholarly treatise by Omi Hatashin, of Waseda University, Tokyo on Japanese decision making in WWII. I wanted to understand the subject from within the Japanese culture not from my western perspective. He went into depth explaining two distinctive Japanese cultural traits, honne which roughly translates to "true wishes" synonymous with personal opinion in our culture and tatemae which is community or organization opinion. One was expected to maintain the harmony of ones organization or community. It was interesting reading, here's an excerpt:

    The army’s intentions
    Post-war testimonies of the navy leaders concerning the events in the last week of
    Konoye’s Cabinet, around 10–16 October 1941, gave revealing testimonies of the army’s
    true wishes (honne): for example, the War Minister, Lieutenant-General Tojo, informally
    approached the Admiralty Minister, Vice-Admiral Oikawa, and asked him to say
    that the navy could not possibly fight the Americans [Shinmyo, (1976), p.181]. The
    contemporary Chief of the Naval General Staff, Admiral Nagano, too, was asked in
    private by his army counterpart, General Sugiyama, to say that the navy could not fight
    the USA [Shinmyo, (1976), p.140]. Around the same period, General Hata, the then
    Supreme Commander of the Japanese Expeditionary Forces in all the theatres in China
    made it known to the Cabinet Office that he was happy to withdraw from China
    [Shinmyo, (1976), p.126]. The Chief of Staff of the Japanese Expeditionary Force in
    Northern China, Atomiya, visited and requested the Admiralty Minister to avert the war
    against the USA, saying that the forces in China were happy to withdraw [Shinmyo,
    (1976), p.126]. The army’s records are not entirely contradictory: Tojo suggested to his
    navy counterpart, “if you have changed your mind, we shall go along with it”; and Tojo
    had ‘a casual chat’ (zatsudan) with the Army Chief, saying “we have to change our mind
    if the navy do not feel strong enough to fight” [Sugiyama, (1967), p.351].
    The army’s ostensible position (tatemae) was manifested on 12 October 1941, in a
    meeting of the Prime Minister, the War Minister, the Admiralty Minister, the Foreign
    Minister, and the Planning Authority Director. The Admiralty Minister (Vice-Admiral
    Oikawa) asked the Prime Minister to decide whether to make peace or war, and
    Prime Minister Konoye said he would like to continue diplomacy. This made the
    War Minister (Lieutenant-General Tojo) very angry, because the army’s true desire
    (honne) was to withdraw from China on the ground of the navy’s weakness, as shown
    above. Tojo remarked that the Prime Minister could not overturn the resolution of the
    imperial conference (Figure 1 and Appendix) of 6 September 1941 [Sugiyama, (1967),
    pp.345–347], in which it was decided that if there was no reasonable prospect of success
    in negotiations with the Americans by the first ten days of October 1941, the imperial
    high command and government should make up their mind to fight the USA and
    Great Britain, and the armed forces should ready themselves to fight by the last ten days
    of October [Sugiyama, (1967), p.312].....There was a precedent in which the navy had managed to pull the Japanese army out of
    Russia and thereby eased tension with the USA: Admiral Kato signed the Washington
    Naval Treaty 1922, formed a cabinet and succeeded in pulling the Japanese army out of
    Russia’s Far East by 25 October 1922. Therefore, it was somewhat ‘constitutional’ to
    expect the navy to restore law and order. However, the mutiny of 1936, which massacred
    the cabinet of Admiral Okada, who was then trying to cut the defence budget, represented
    a great source of fear on the part of the navy leaders, too.
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    This excerpt from Eri Hotta's book Japan 1941 shows just how much influence the Navy had in 1941. Yamamoto knew that Japan could not hope to win a long war against the US, but he planned for it anyway in April 1941. The General Staff allowed him to go ahead. I would recommend a read of this book. She goes into the background of Japan's decision to go to war (justified in their minds) by examining the makeup of the various Cabinets, especially in the 1930s. A good read in my opinion.

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